Historic Hillenmeyer company invests in complete rebrand

Updated Mar 7, 2019
Photo: HillenmeyerPhoto: Hillenmeyer

A 177-year-old landscaping company is bound to go through some rebranding from time to time, and Stephen Hillenmeyer Landscape Services has done just that.

This Lexington, Kentucky-based family business, which now has six generations of Hillenmeyers working within it, has changed its name to simply: Hillenmeyer.

It may seem as simple as dropping the “the” in “TheFacebook” back in the early days of the social media site, but Stephen Hillenmeyer says this rebranding is a sign of the company moving forward to be less about him.

“We’ve created this Hillenmeyer brand and that Hillenmeyer brand could be a multitude of things in the next however many years,” he said. “We could be in something completely different than landscaping or mowing or who knows.”

Hillenmeyer hopes to have his company’s new logo become as iconic as the Nike swoosh.

The company has come a long way from its humble beginnings as a nursery in 1841 by Francis Xavier Hillenmeyer. Photo: HillenmeyerThe company has come a long way from its humble beginnings as a nursery in 1841 by Francis Xavier Hillenmeyer.
Photo: Hillenmeyer

“You don’t even have to say Hillenmeyer; you can just see the H,” he said. “It’s on our trucks. It’s on our invoices. It’s on our coats. It’s on our safety gear, and so people are just going to see the H and know.”

The motivation for the rebranding has several different roots. Part of the reason is, like Hillenmeyer mentioned earlier, because his sons now play a larger role in the business. Another factor was it was around the time they needed to get new trailers, and wrapping them is an expensive task.

Hillenmeyer originally wanted to do the rebranding before the company’s 175th anniversary, but they were simply too busy at the time and had to delay the process.

The company had been considering freshening up its brand for some time but when Hillenmeyer encountered a presentation put on by Bullhorn for the local chamber of commerce on how they go about helping companies rebrand, he knew they would need professional help to rethink who they were as a company.

While it was a few years between the presentation and when the company finally reached out to Bullhorn, Hillenmeyer found they were a good fit for helping his business.

“Even though I’m in the design business, so you have to be creative, this was totally out of my wheelhouse,” Hillenmeyer said. “The research that they did because the history of our organization was very important to us.”

Hillenmeyer’s operation offers services to commercial, residential and equine customers and it has recently purchased another Weed Man franchise in Tennessee. Because the company is so versatile, Hillenmeyer wanted to create a brand that shows they are more than just a landscaping company.

“We were kind of struggling with how do we have an identity, but keep the individual identities of the other franchises that we have and then whatever other service lines or business units we would get into could just fall under this umbrella if you will.”

After interviewing and hiring Bullhorn, it took about six months for Hillenmeyer to settle on a new look, sending the branding company back to the drawing board multiple times. Ironically, the design they ended up selecting was the first one they were originally pitched.

Photo: HillenmeyerPhoto: Hillenmeyer

Hillenmeyer says that at first, the new design seemed so far out there that it took him awhile before he understood what they were trying to do. Bullhorn’s goal was to create a look for the company that would be as timeless as a Ford or Coca-Cola logo.

“Just by having the word Hillenmeyer, it just immediately makes a statement,” he said. “When you see our trucks and more specifically our trailers, which are a huge billboard and they were always a huge billboard, but now it just says one thing and so now when you see it, it’s like ‘Hillenmeyer is here.’ All the other stuff that we do, you don’t even have to say it. You don’t have to talk about how many different types of Coke there are; it’s just Coke.”

The owner wanted to convey a sense of stability and classiness with the rebrand and so far the response has been quite positive, from customers commenting their love for the design to local competitors admitting they were impressed with the rebrand.

Surprisingly, the decision to rebrand was kept close to the vest with only four people in the company knowing about it.

“It was a pretty hard secret to keep from everybody,” Hillenmeyer said.

When it was finally time to roll out the new design, Hillenmeyer held a company meeting to introduce the rebrand. One of the trucks and trailers was wrapped with the logo and they opened the doors of their shop to reveal the revamped truck and trailer. The crew members all received new uniforms, hats and vests. Hillenmeyer says they were ecstatic over the new look.

Photo: HillenmeyerPhoto: Hillenmeyer

As for the business in general, Hillenmeyer says things are going well and they are currently experiencing growth in all of their service lines as the economy thrives.

“It’s really about growing the people,” he said. “There’s opportunities there but you can’t do it without the people, so that’s usually your stop gap. You better have the bench to be able to take care of the opportunities that come your way.”

The company has been using H-2B for at least 15 years to help meet its need for workers, but it also has an active referral program to recruit more local folks. Thankfully, they got their workers for this year, but Hillenmeyer is aware of how the program is becoming more of a risk and a challenge to use.

For other companies considering a serious rebrand, Hillenmeyer offers the advice of leaving it to the professionals.

“This is not something you try to do yourself,” he said. “You get what you pay for. Just as we provide services that people shouldn’t try to do themselves, this is the same thing. If you really want to do it, you need to have a professional. So, look at who’s available and interview them and have them show you some of their work and see who you make a connection with.”

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